My single largest fear, when it appeared that Donald Trump might actually win the 2016 election, was not about internal or domestic policies, though they certainly do weigh heavily. My single greatest fear, however, was in the area of foreign relations and foreign policy, for it was already obvious that Trump had no inkling about how nations interact, and it was also obvious that he was unlikely to take advice from anybody else. Although he swore his intent to surround himself with “the best people”, we all knew that he defines ‘best’ quite differently than most of us. So, when he was declared the winner of the electoral, though not the popular, vote in the wee hours of November 9th, 2016, I was bracing for a series of foreign policy catastrophes and hoping against all hope that Congress and high-level advisors would be able to contain the worst of the damage.
That said, I was in no way prepared for the calamity that Trump has wrought upon our nation in the last 16 months, and most especially in the last month … actually, the very worst may have come in the last 3 days, though it may be followed by worse on the morrow. For you see, not only is Trump acting out of ignorance, but he is acting out of malice, out of an obvious desire to destroy long-term alliances and either isolate the U.S. in a way that is not sustainable, not in our best interests, and very dangerous in today’s global environment, or he seeks to realign with our nemesis, Russia.
What he and his advisors have done in a short 24-hour period to our relations with our closest neighbor, Canada, is appalling and unconscionable. Last week I expressed the opinion that it might be best if he did not attend the G7. This week I am thoroughly convinced it would have been better. Trump, who does not understand global trade, but thinks of himself as a master ‘wheeler-dealer’, put the final straw on the camel’s back of our relationship with Canada and the EU, particularly Canada.
Trump came to office proclaiming, incorrectly, that the U.S. has been taken advantage of by its trading partners. He has sought to renegotiate trade agreements and threatened to impose tariffs on countries that resisted. Trump sees international trade agreements as a win/lose situation and he is determined to be the winner. In reality, such agreements as NAFTA are not a win/lose proposition, but a win/win one in which each side makes some concessions and both sides gain. But Donald Trump is willing to make no concessions, not willing to budge one inch from what he perceives as his rightful win.
Trump left the G7 meetings early, skipping out on the discussions about climate change, which was just as well, since he had nothing positive to add and would likely have derailed any serious discussions in an effort to take center stage as he always does. At the conclusion of the G7, there was a press conference where a reporter asked Canada’s Prime Minister Trudeau about the U.S. tariffs and whether Trudeau was taking seriously Trump’s threats to cut off trade with any country that failed to do Trump’s bidding. Trudeau responded …
“I highlighted directly to the president that Canadians did not take it lightly that the United States has moved forward with significant tariffs on our steel and aluminum industry, particularly did not take lightly the fact that it’s based on a national security reason that for Canadians, who either themselves or whose parents or community members have stood shoulder-to-shoulder with American soldiers in far off lands and conflicts from the First World War onwards, that it’s kind of insulting. And highlighted that it was not helping in our renegotiation of NAFTA and that it would be with regret, but it would be with absolute certainty and firmness that we move forward with retaliatory measures on July 1, applying equivalent tariffs to the ones that the Americans have unjustly applied to us. I have made it very clear to the president that it is not something we relish doing, but it is something that we absolutely will do, because Canadians, we’re polite, we’re reasonable, but we also will not be pushed around.”
Although it was a very reasonable and well-reasoned comment, when Trump heard of it he went into a rage, tweeting …
“Based on Justin’s false statements at his news conference, and the fact that Canada is charging massive Tariffs to our U.S. farmers, workers and companies, I have instructed our U.S. Reps not to endorse the Communique as we look at Tariffs on automobiles flooding the U.S. Market!”
“PM Justin Trudeau of Canada acted so meek and mild during our @G7 meetings only to give a news conference after I left saying that, ‘US Tariffs were kind of insulting’ and he ‘will not be pushed around.’ Very dishonest & weak. Our Tariffs are in response to his of 270% on dairy!”
There was nothing either dishonest or weak in what Mr. Trudeau said – and he was well within his rights to say it. But even that wasn’t the worst of it. On the Sunday morning talk shows, Trump’s minions took the whole thing to the next level of idiocy and most likely cost us the friendship of a treasured ally.
On CBS’ Face the Nation, White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow: “So, he holds a press conference. The president is barely out of there, on the plane to North Korea, and he starts insulting us. You know, he starts talking about U.S. is insulting Canada. We are not — we, Canada, are not going to be pushed around.”
Then Kudlow hopped right over to CNN’s State of the Union, where he said: “Potus is not going to let a Canadian prime minister push him around – push him, Potus around, on the eve of this. He is not going to permit any show of weakness on the trip to negotiate with North Korea. Nor should he.”
Trump’s Twitter finger was apparently bored in Singapore, and he jumped back in …
“Fair Trade is now to be called Fool Trade if it is not Reciprocal. According to a Canada release, they make almost 100 Billion Dollars in Trade with U.S. (guess they were bragging and got caught!). Minimum is 17B. Tax Dairy from us at 270%. Then Justin acts hurt when called out!”
But possibly the most obnoxiously insulting barb came from Trump’s trade adviser Peter Navarro appearing on Fox News Sunday:
“There’s a special place in hell for any foreign leader that engages in bad faith diplomacy with President Donald J Trump and then tries to stab him in the back on the way out the door, and that’s what Bad Faith Justin Trudeau did with that stunt press conference.”
Trump, Kudlow and Navarro all sound like a bunch of West Side thugs, which is just about all they are.
Canada, however, responded to the assaults in an adult manner with diplomacy and tact. Canadian foreign minister Chrystia Freeland told reporters in Quebec City:
“Canada does not conduct its diplomacy through ad hominem attacks … and we refrain particularly from ad hominem attacks when it comes from a close ally.”
At this juncture, I would like to humbly and sincerely apologize to Prime Minister Trudeau and all Canadians on behalf of myself and the majority of citizens in this nation for the inane and unfair language and behaviour of our representatives. We would not blame you if you closed your borders to U.S. citizens and you would be well within your rights to do so, but we hope that you won’t. Please forgive us.